Yvette was enjoying her afternoon. She had come home to visit her parents, both of whom were ecstatic to have her. Her Mom had chatted nonstop about everything from how her younger siblings were doing in college to the pansies growing in the front yard to why Yvette hadn’t found a new boy friend for three full years now and she wasn’t getting any younger. Her mom chatted incessantly since the moment she had stepped through the door, and quite frankly she was still glad to be back.
She had missed the excitement her large family produced. Moving so far away from everyone and everything she knew had been a major adjustment, and now she found herself readjusting from the quiet of her flat to the bustle of a suburban home and neighborhood. When her mother dramatically announced that she was out of fresh lemons, Yvette had happily taken the excuse to drive the few short miles to the old grocery store and find the lemons that her mom couldn’t seem to live without.
Yvette walked through the old, thick, glass paned doors of the store and grabbed a small shopping basket to peruse the aisles of the store. Most things hadn’t changed since she had last been home, and this store was no different. She waved at Mr. Teal, who had owned it since the beginning of time, and she tried to avoid Ms. McEntire, the town gossip.
She knew the produce would be in the back corner of the store, so she made her way in that general direction. As she neared the end of her aisle, she noticed a pair of steel toe boots. It’s funny how something so simple can throw you so far back in time. The steel toe boots reminded her of her first love, and her only true love if she was honest with herself. She followed the boots up, but the legs were thicker and more mature than the legs she remembered from her years at the high school here. The steel toe boots of her teenage boyfriend were large and accented his slightly immature and gangly body.
The boots stopped her in her tracks none the less. She took a moment to absentmindedly study a row of canned peaches as she sorted through the avalanche of emotions that wanted to wash over her. Zane had been her first love, her only love. He was so sweet, and funny, and he went out of his way to catch her eye. He was nearly a year older, so he had his license way before she was even eligible. He made a point to take her home every day after school, despite living miles in the opposite direction, and they had spent every minute together that they possible could for years.
One night, one of her favorite nights ever, he had met up with her after work. He snuck in the shop she had worked at and helped her finish her duties so she could sneak out with him a bit faster. They had picked up fast food, and he drove her out to the peninsula that jutted out into Love Lake. The stars had been out in full force, and they ate their food in peace, the silence not even the slightest bit awkward. When they were finished, he took a small package out of his pocket, turned to her, and asked her to marry him.
She was absolutely shocked and she had cried as she accepted his ring. They promised to keep it their secret until the time was right to share it with their families, and it was this secret oath that bound them on a weird level that was complete. That was also the night they had first made love. She was so certain they were meant to be together, and he had no reservations either. Life had been so bright and full of potential then.
They made it another full year. They had both graduated high school, and she had accepted a full scholarship on the west coast, and he had been offered a full ride on the east coast. She innocently believed their love would bind them together for the next four years, so when he tried to decline his scholarship to be with her, she wouldn’t let him. She went round and round with him about how much it would all work out and he should pursue his dream much like she was pursuing hers, and eventually he had accepted.
The phone calls had kept them together, and they would easily talk for hours into the night. They were making it, and she was so hopeful.
When they were in their junior year of college, she was counting the days down til summer break. They would both return home for the summer and be together. Four days before finals. Just four days to go when she had received the 2am phone call. The 2am phone call from another female, clearly intoxicated, informing her that she was currently getting a ride home from Zane, Yvette’s fiance, and that she planned to do whatever she could to get him to stay. She had heard Zane defending himself in the background, completely sober and disturbed by the comments the drunk was making, but the scare in the middle of the night had devastated her.
Although the phone call had unsettled her, she eventually trusted him enough to try to work it out. He vehemently denied that anything wrong had happened, but the trust was lost nonetheless. Each time she would hear a female laugh in the background, she imagined the female with her paws all over her man, and it eventually destroyed their long distance relationship. Instead of going home that summer, she took on a summer internship on the west coast and broke things off with him.
It was the worst decision of her life. She knew Zane had never done anything wrong, and she missed him every single day. Every single day she remembered those gangly legs over the top of those too big steel toes, and she remembered the feel of his skin on hers, the smell of his aftershave, and the way his hair tousled each morning. She remembered all the nice things he had done, all the rides, fun, and memories made. Every day for three years she missed him with an intensity that only seemed to build instead of wane. She had blown it, and even if those legs were that of her love, there’s no way he could take her back after the way she had acted.
She pulled herself together and finished her walk down the aisle, curious as to whom the legs belonged to. Maybe a local? Maybe someone she would recognize?
When she rounded the corner at the end of the aisle, she was absolutely and completely paralyzed by the face she recognized.
My God, those were Zane’s steel toes after all.
Zane was catching up with his old neighbor at the grocery store in his hometown when the woman he least expected had come up behind him. The woman that stole his heart and still had it.
The woman that had left him in her dust and never looked back, he reminded himself.
When she came around and noticed him, she froze, too. Her jaw dropped nearly to the ground. His reaction didn’t feel much less dramatic. She was here, in the flesh and blood, and he missed her with such an intense longing, way worse than when he could only remember her from his thoughts. In the flesh and blood she was more than his heart could handle, making him regret making this impromptu visit to celebrate his Dad’s birthday.
Her dark hair flowed easily over her shoulders. Her eyes still sparkled and she still had the fullest, kissable lips he had ever seen. She had matured in the past few years, and it did unimaginably wonderful things to her breast and hips. Her tanned legs went for miles below her white shorts, and he wanted to push his old neighbor out of the way and scoop her in his arms and carry her away and explain that she was the only woman for him, that ever was or could ever be.
He hadn’t accepted a single date in three years, no one even comparing to the smarts and wit and beauty of his first and only love. He had done well in engineering school and now had a great job on the east coast, but he regretted taking the scholarship that got him here every single day since they first parted ways as teenagers. Knowing the distance had cost him the only love of his life made all the success taste bitter, especially at this moment.
He tried to gather himself, knowing she could never forgive him for his perceived wrong doing. He had never done anything inappropriate that night. His friend had broken up with his girlfriend and asked Zane to bring her home. It seemed like a sensible thing a friend would do at the time, but it had costed him his everything. He wished a hundred times over that he had simply said no that night.
He braced himself for her rejection, but it hadn’t come. She stood there, mirroring his shock, and he had a glimmer of hope. Maybe rekindling their love wasn’t as distant of a possibility as he thought.
He cleared his throat and could only speak her name, “Yvette.”
Her voice exposed the turmoil she must also be feeling. “Zane.”
He decided honesty was the best policy, especially since his brain couldn’t focus enough to lie about his feelings if he had tried. “I missed you” he admitted.
The smallest of smiles reached her lips, “I missed you, too.”
His neighbor seemed to pick up on the gravity of the situation, most likely recalling the pair back in the days when he would sneak out to be with her, or just sit out on the front porch together, sorting the world out in their own way. The neighbor backed up with a knowing smile on his face and excused himself. Good.
Zane ran his eyes back over her body, but his heart ended up shattered into a million pieces when he saw the ring on her hand. She was engaged or married already. He had blown it for life. He tried to hold it together another moment and was going to ask her to lunch anyways, but then he thought better of it. If a drunk phone call at two in the morning could cause problems in a relationship, he couldn’t imagine how a lunch date with an ex lover would go over with her current beau.
Thankfully, she started the conversation instead, nervously playing with the ring on her finger. “I guess I’ve been caught” she said shyly, a blush making its way up her chest and settling in her cheeks. He wasn’t sure what she had meant, and his face must have expressed his confusion as she went on, “It’s yours. You gave me this ring. I never could quite let it go,” she said, “or let go of you” she finished, her voice a broken whisper.
His stomach did a flip when he recognized the ring. It indeed was the one he had bought years ago and given to her that starry night on the peninsula. He felt his eyes widen in surprise, and yet again he couldn’t come up with the words to adequately describe his elation, sufficing with the smile he didn’t think he could peel off his face if he tried.
He took out his wallet, and he found the love letter. The one that she had given him all those years ago, decorated with little hearts and written in her precious handwriting. He was certain when he held it that he could still remember her scent, the way her soft body preferred to be curled around his, and the sound of her giggle. It was this letter that had confirmed in his heart that she was the only one for him, and he had gone out the next day to buy the ring.
He took the letter out and handed it to her. “Me, either.”
She instantly recognized her own handwriting and tears moistened her eyes. “I’m so sorry” she pushed out, “I still love you” she admitted, barely audibly.
“I’ve always loved you” he found himself saying. She was the only one who ever made him this vulnerable and honest, and he didn’t care who knew. “Do you have time for lunch?” he asked, genuinely hoping she would accept his offer, preparing for the rejection that most likely would come, knowing it was worth the risk.
“I can make time” she said, setting her grocery basket back in the bin and reaching her hand out to him. He gladly took it, hoping he would never have to let go of her again.